ILOILO HERITAGE: Must Visit Churches and Heritage Houses in Iloilo!


When one hears the name Iloilo, it’s usually food that comes to mind–La Paz Batchoy, Pansit Molo, and Butterscotch. Secondary to that is the annual Dinagyang Festival. But there’s more to Iloilo than just its food and festivities.

Iloilo is a province that’s rich in culture and history, and its centuries-old churches and heritage houses are a testament to this. Each structure has their own rich story to tell.

Here are Iloilo’s must-visit heritage churches and houses…


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 ILOILO HERITAGE: Must Visit Churches and Heritage Houses in Iloilo!
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1. Jaro Cathedral (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria)


Jaro Cathedral is the most familiar one to me on this list. Every time we visit Iloilo, we would pass by this church as it’s the closest one to home.

The unique thing about Jaro Cathedral is the location of its belfry or the bell tower. While most churches will have its belfry right next to the fundamental architecture, Jaro Cathedral’s is on the opposite side of the street.



The stairs at the front of the church lead to the shrine of Our Lady of Candles (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria) and give you a better view of the bell tower. The Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is the only female image among all the male images in the church.

Trivia: Senator Grace Poe was abandoned and found in this church.


2. Molo Church (Church of St. Anne)


Molo Church is known to be a feminist church or Church of the Women because the images of the saints in the church are all female.

Built in 1831, the church is built out of white coral rock and has been well-preserved since. It was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1992.



Across the church, at the Molo plaza, is a structure featuring Greek gods and goddesses. There isn’t a concrete story as to why these were built and placed here.


3. Miag-ao Church (Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova)


Miag-ao Church is famous for the painstakingly detailed sculptural relief on its pediment. The church was built in 1731, and it is considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. The Miag-ao church is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.



The style of the church is considered Baroque Romanesque. Most notable is its two different bell towers, which served as a watchtower to defend the town against the Moro invasion. It is a common misconception though that its massive structure was for military purposes. The truth is, the structure is built in such a way to withstand movement and earthquakes.


4. Sta. Barbara Church and Convent


Lesser known compared to the ones on this list, the Sta. Barbara Church must not be forgotten. It’s the only church in Iloilo with the convent still attached to the main structure.



The NHCP has also declared Sta. Barbara Church as a National Landmark. The restoration of the church was completed just recently. The facade and the interiors all got a major facelift. It’s really nice to know that these churches are not just being left to be used and dilapidated over time.


5. San Joaquin Parish Church


San Joaquin is the southernmost town of Iloilo, so a trip to this church will cost you some time. It’s well worth the trip though.

The pediment features the victory of the Spanish over the Moors in Battle of Tétouan. The attention to detail is remarkable. The materials and dyes used for the church’s body and its pediment are all derived from nature.



Considered a National Cultural Treasure, any plans for restoration to the church must be made known to the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP). However, the most recent renovation left the NMP highly criticized as it deteriorated just after a few months.



Also, a stone’s throw away from San Joaquin Church is Garin Farm. Garin Farm is an eco-tourism farm owned by the Garin Family known for its Stairway to Heaven.



To reach the cross at Stairway to Heaven, you need to climb 420 steps before reaching a tunnel that leads to the main attraction. You could also ride a golf cart for 30 pesos per head if you prefer not to walk.



You’ll be greeted by another small staircase and angel statues once you exit the tunnel. Pay a visit to this farm in the afternoon, as it gets blinding and scorching if you visit at lunchtime when the sun is high. It’s important that you bring a pair of shades (we learned this the hard way).

Even if you are a non-Catholic, Iloilo’s churches are still worth a visit. The history, the architecture, and all the little details of every church make it worth the trip.

I didn’t know much about the history of the churches prior to our tour; the only thing I knew was that they were nice to look at. We had a great time visiting all the churches and learning their stories. These churches have stood the test of time, but they’re not the only ones with stories to tell. Iloilo has a number of ancient houses that are available for public viewing as well.



1. Nelly Garden


Grandiose, magnificent, and classic are some words that would best describe the Nelly Mansion. Built in 1928 by Don Vicente Lopez and his wife, Doña Elena Hofileña. The mansion’s moniker is the name of their eldest daughter, Nelly.



Upon stepping inside the mansion, you would immediately feel the sense of aristocracy. Perhaps it’s the redwood floors, the commissioned portraits, or the bespoke furniture–something about the place just transports you in time.

Photos are not allowed inside the mansion, so you need to come to Iloilo yourself and visit Nelly Garden.

Mansion Tour Fee: P200/pax; minimum of 5 pax (parties less than five people may opt to pay the full amount of P1000 instead); inclusive of tour guide. All tours must be booked at least three days in advance to confirm availability.

Nelly Garden
Address: Nelly Garden, E. Lopez St. Jaro, Iloilo City
Contact: (033) 320-30-75 / 09054955353


2. Lizares Mansion


Built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares, the Lizares Mansion is a living testimony to the boom of the sugar industry during the 30s.

According to our tour guide, this was the first mansion to have centralized air-conditioning at the time. Air-cons were not a common thing before, so the mansion utilized ice for this purpose.



After 30 years, the Dominicans bought the property, and it now serves as the chapel of Angelicum School of Iloilo.

Lizares Mansion
Address: MacArthur Drive, Tabuc Suba, Jaro, Iloilo City


3. Casa Mariquit


Casa Mariquit was built by three-term Former Vice-President Fernando H. Lopez, Sr., and named after his wife, Maria “Mariquit” Javellana.



Compared to the two previous heritage houses, Casa Mariquit does not come with an enormous, sprawling lawn. This is because the ground floor used to be a bank, and banks do not associate with such lavishness.



What it does have though are well-preserved furniture, campaign paraphernalia, and memorabilia. These items are just around the house. Rumor has it, anyone that has illegally brought home an object from Casa Mariquit has fallen ill afterwards and has had to return the items they took.

Casa Mariquit
Address: Santa Isabel St, Jaro, Iloilo City, 5000 Iloilo, Philippines


4. Molo Mansion (Yusay-Consing Mansion)


The Molo Mansion, built in the 1920s, was formerly owned by the Lacson-Yusay family, before it was passed on to Timoteo Consing Sr. and his family.

For the longest time, it was neglected and dilapidated. SM has since bought the property and renovated it and turned it into a Kultura store.

Molo Mansion
Address: Locsin St, Molo, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines


Final Thoughts


There are many more heritage houses in Iloilo, but most of them are not open to the public. Some are left under the care of caretakers, while others have been passed through generations and used as living quarters. It would be best to get a tour guide and have a rolling tour of all the heritage houses.

Iloilo is a province that boasts of its heritage, and this is evident in their preservation, restoration, and promotional efforts of their churches and ancient houses. Indeed, there really is more to Iloilo than just its food and nearby beaches.

Come to Iloilo for the food, and stay for the culture.


How To Get There?


Best to rent a van and tour these churches on your own time. We rode with ZTS Rent-A-Car.

They currently have a fleet of different vehicle classes: Sedans (Vios, Altis), SUVs (Avanza, Innova, Fortuner), Vans (Urvan, Grandia, Supergrandia), Minibuses (24- and 30-seaters). Flexible rates differ based on travel destination and preferred vehicle, from P2,000 for City driving to as low as P2,500* for around Panay driving.

ZTS Rent-A-Car
Mobile: +6333 3291526, +63998-ZTSCARS
Facebook: ztsrentacar.zts


Awesome Iloilo Series:

RICHMONDE ILOILO: Luxurious Ilonggo Hospitality at the Best Hotel in Iloilo?!
 ILOILO HERITAGE: Must Visit Churches and Heritage Houses in Iloilo!
MSO Sweet Symphonies: Manila Symphony Orchestra in Iloilo City! (Photo E


Live an Awesome Life,



Disclosure: Our tour was courtesy of Department of Tourism Region VI. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. 

P.S. At the back of the Molo Mansion is a small store called Table Matters that sells this unique Blue Ternate Ice Cream. The ice cream had a slight blue tinge and was served with an edible flower. It tastes just like a regular sorbetes and the flower tastes like lettuce.

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